It isn’t even Christmas yet and things in the Barclay’s English Premier League are getting very interesting. It has been years since the top of the table has seen anything but the “Big 4″ clear at the top. The 2010/2011 season has already provided some major story lines and possible shifts of power.
While change does seem to be in the air, the battle for top spot when the year comes to end looks set to remain a two horse race. Title holders Manchester United and Chelsea have combined to win the title the last five years, with United winning three on the trot. Chelsea seemed to be successfully building a significant gap between themselves and the Red Devils, as they beat United on a controversial goal early in the season and were outscoring lower level Premier League opponents by huge margins. While Manchester United has held steady and continued to get results, Chelsea have recently stubbed their toe with some questionable defending. After outscoring their opponents 17-0 over their previous five matches, Chelsea has only secured four of nine points in their last three matches giving up five goals over that stretch.
The main storyline of 2010 has been the demise of last year’s runner-up, Liverpool. The Merseysider’s came close to wrestling the domestic championship back from United last year, but seem to have lost their spirit during the current campaign. The Reds have shockingly fallen to sixth in the league, 13 points off leaders Chelsea, bringing serious heat on manager Rafa Benitez. Without a serious turnaround, Liverpool faces a very real possibility of failing to qualify for Champions League play next season.
Where the sadness ends for Liverpool fans, the excitement begins for the supporters of Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa. After several recent successful seasons, Tottenham and Villa have still been unable to break up the top four’s stranglehold on Champions League participation. Without a loss in six games, Aston Villa are riding high off their recent shock 1-0 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Similarly, Tottenham has been on an impressive run as of late. Their top notch form includes a legendary 9-1 thrashing of Wigan Athletic in which striker Jermaine Defoe scored an incredible five times. With the season not even half way over, their is still lots of work to be done if either of these challengers will have their shot at European glory next season.
Already showing signs of change, the Premier League season could still further be flipped on its head as the African Cup of Nations gets started just after the new year. Several clubs including Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham will see significant contributers see an extended period away from England including players like Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Alexander Song (Arsenal) and Sebastien Bassong (Tottenham).